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This is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations that require expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc. Any professional level job that usually requires you to have a bachelors degree or higher can come under the H-1B visa for specialty occupations.
The US H1-B visa is designed to be used for staff in specialty occupations. The job must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation:
Have a minimum entry requirement of a Bachelor's or higher degree or its equivalent.
The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree.
The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position. The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree.
For you to qualify to accept a job offer in a specialty occupation you must meet one of the following criteria:
Have completed a US bachelor's or higher degree required by the specific specialty occupation from an accredited college or university.
Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor's or higher degree in the specialty occupation.
Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification which authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment.
Have education, training, or experience in the specialty that is equivalent to the completion of such a degree, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty.
Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few US visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning the H-1B visa holder can apply for and obtain a US Green Card while in the US on an H-1B visa. If you are still in the US on an H-1B visa and wish to remain in the US for more than six years, you can apply for permanent residency in the US to receive a Green Card. If you do not gain permanent residency prior to the expiration of your H-1B visa, then you must live outside the US for at least one year before reapplying for another H or L visa.
The US H-1B visa has a validity of up to 6 years. Individuals cannot apply directly for an H-1B visa. Instead the employer must petition a H-1B for any employee.
H-1B visas are subject to an annual visa cap each financial year. US employers can begin applying for the H-1B visa six months before the actual start date of the visa.
Current immigration law allows for a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas to be made available each government fiscal year. This number includes 65,000 new H-1B visas available for overseas workers in specialty (professional) level occupations with at least a bachelors degree, with an additional 20,000 visas available for those specialty workers with an advanced degree from a US academic institution. In recent years the H-1B visa cap has been heavily oversubscribed near the beginning of April each year. USCIS then holds a lottery for the available H-1B visas available.
H-1B visa holders can bring their spouse and children under 21 years of age to the US under the H-4 Visa category as dependents. An H4 Visa holder is allowed to remain in the US as long as the H-1B visa holder remains in legal status.